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The 808th Tank Destroyer Battalion

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The Third Army

The 808th Tank Destroyers were part of the third army led by General Patton.

The Early Years

The third army was officially created on 15 November 1918. In Europe, after WWI, it was officially the American's army of occupation. July of 1919 it was renamed to American Forces Germany.

After returning to the continental states in 1932, the Army reorganized its forces. The country was divided into 4 quarters, the Third army was located in the Southeast, alternating its headquarters between Atlanta, Ga. and Houston, Tx.

General Kreuger Years

General KruegerBetween 1941 and 1943, the third army, under the command of Lt. Gen Walter Kreuger, became the best training army in the United States.

Eisenhower and Patton were both already with the third army. Eisenhower was a new brigadier general and Patton a cavalry major general. Patton was the leader of Kreuger's Hell On Wheels 2nd Armored Division. In January of 1943 Kreuger left the third army, taking command of the sixth army in the Pacific Theater of Operations. Hodges then became the commanding general of the third army.

The Middle Years 1943 - 1944

General HodgesGeneral Hodges left much of the command duty to his chief of staff. This didn't work out well and Hodges was replaced; but not until after he and the third army under his command was credited with training the first three negro divisions of the US army, the 92nd and 93rd Infantry Divisions and the 2nd Cavalry Division.

The third army, on 31 December 1943 was changed from a training army to a combat army.

The Strong Years 1944 - 1945

Gerneral PattonGeneral Patton took command of the third army on their arrival in Glascow, England. Patton met them at the docks. "I'm your new commander. I'm glad to meet you. I hope it's mutual. There's a lot of work to be done and there's little time to do it. There's a special train waiting on the dock to take you to our Command Post. We will leave in one hour."

Following the Normandy invasion, Patton was placed in command of the Third U.S. Army, which was on the extreme right (west) of the Allied land forces. He led this army during Operation Cobra, the breakout from earlier slow fighting in the Norman system of planting hedgerows, besieged Cherbourg, and then moved south and east, assisting in trapping several hundred thousand German soldiers in Falaise.

Operations in Europe

The Third Army was stopped because of a lack of fuel in September, and resumed offensive operations in the late fall of 1944. When the German army counterattacked during the Battle of the Bulge, Patton was able to disengage his army fighting eastward and turned it ninety degrees north—a considerable tactical and logistical achievement.
Once the Bulge was reduced, Patton moved into the Saar Basin of Germany. Patton was planning to take Prague, Czechoslovakia, when the forward movement of American forces was halted.

The third army's battle record began on 1 August 1944

The 808 joined the third army in France in late September, 1944

In nine months and eight days of fighting, the Third Army compiled a great record. Not only did the Third Army astonish the world, but it's deeds, in terms of statistics, challenged the imagination. The Third Army gave a new meaning to fluid warfare. The Third had only one general order from Patton; "Seek out the enemy, trap him, and destroy him."

Third Army was not a defensive army. General Patton didn't believe in defensive tactics, he believed in attacking. He often told his soldiers, "When in doubt, attack." They knew that to defeat the Germans, they had to be on the offensive at all times. Like a boxer, they understood that once you got your opponent on the ropes, you had to keep at him until he went down. You couldn't let up and give him a chance to rest.

The enemy was under continuous attack by both the Third Army's infantry and tank forces and Brigadier General O.P. Weyland's XIX Tactical Air Command's fighter-bombers. At this point, the enemy lost all hope of regaining the initiative, this is when the 808th came online in Europe.

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Enter the 808th - It was during the above advances that the 808th came on line.

The speed of the Third Army's advance forced the Germans to break into a hap-hazard, hasty retreat. The Third Army gave the Germans no time to occupy any natural defense lines or strong-points. It just kept punching it's way toward victory

The German's retreat continued until only the Moselle River and the German built Siegfried Line lay between the Third Army and German soil. As the month of August drew near to a close, there was much evidence that the Third would have to actually slow down it's advance so that the other Allied armies could catch up with them.

Slowed to a Crawl

In September of 1944, Eisenhower decided to send much of the third army's supplies to the British Second Army. The plan the British army had devised failed. The lost time suffered by the American Third army, many people believe, caused the war to end in mid-1945 instead of late 1944.
During this "down-time" the third army continued to patrol their lines. Aggressively.

"The road home is through Berlin"

Finally, on 8 November 1944, Eisenhower gave Patton and his third army the green light to continue operations.

"Never let the enemy rest," he told his men, "once you have them on the run, keep them on the run." Patton told his men, and that's what they did.

In spite of fanatic German resistance, Metz was captured for the first time since 451 A.D. The Third Army entered the city on November 18th after it was completely encircled.

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Battle of the Bulge

It was decided that the toughest job would go to General Patton and his Third Army. They would have to relieve the soldiers who had been surrounded by the Germans at the Belgian city of Bastogne. This is the same time the quartermaster was having so much trouble being attacked (m>see the gear pages to see what the 808th TD was short and why.)

The Impossible

The Third Army had to stop a full scale attack they had started to the east, pull back the entire army, swing around ninety degrees to the north, and then begin another full scale attack on the southern flank of the German forces. Nothing like that had ever been done in the history of warfare. Everyone thought it was impossible except General Patton. He knew his men could do the impossible. It took three days.

While watching his men heading toward the Germans surrounding Bastogne, Patton said, "No other army in the world could do this. No other soldiers could do what these men are doing. By God, I'm proud of them.">

28 January 1945 officially became the end of the battle of the bulge. The Germans were completely pushed back into German territory.

When that battle ended, the drive continued. "Seek, Strike, Destroy"

ThiThird Army's final campaign across the Danube River, into Czechoslovakia and Austria, was halted with the official end of the war in Europe at 0001 hours (one minute after midnight) on May 9th, 1945. 8 May 1945 in the states became V.E. Day.

The End

September 1945 - General Patton turned over command to Lt. General Truscott.
The third army returned to its' pre-war role of training army when it returned to the states from Europe.>

1 O1 October 1973 - The Third Army, the greatest army the world has ever known was inactivated.

 

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